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Tag Archives: pond



The scene, above, is a view of a private pond north of where I live. The owners have been kind enough to allow me to take photos of and paint scenes from their property.

In class, right now, my students are creating paintings in watercolor on different surfaces or incorporating different mediums. We do something different each week. Week before last was the crayon resist. This week we painted something on a surface that we prepared with “gesso juice”. I wrote a post about how to prepare the surface of your paper here. I actually added sand to the gesso when preparing this surface. If you enlarge the above painting, you can see evidence of the sand in that large tree trunk on the left.

This surface is very FREEING. It is not as slippery as Yupo, so it is easier to apply the pigment. You also have the ability to lift color and to play around in the image. I always spray these with acrylic matte fixative when I’m done. Otherwise, a drop of water could do damage.


The above painting is another technique I tried with watercolor and rice paper.


I began by painting the landscape you see, above,  on 140lb Rough Arches Watercolor Paper.


I chose a piece of textured and mostly transparent  rice paper, measured it to the size of my painting and glued it on top of the painting.  I mixed one part water with three parts acrylic matte medium and applied it to the back of the rice paper and carefully laid it over the surface of my incomplete painting.  I used a large flat brush with soft bristles to apply thin layers of the glue mixture to the surface and gently push air bubbles out. A roller can also be used for this step. Handle the wet rice paper gently because it becomes very fragile when it is wet.  The watercolor paper ripples and my rice paper lifted up when it did that. I solved that by reflattening the rice paper with my brush and drying areas with a hair dryer as I did that. I allowed this phase to dry overnight.

woodsandpond finished painting

Then the work began. I repainted the original scene through the paper and added more colors as well as pushed my darks and detail. I added foreground rice paper shapes and more rice papers to the middle ground, playing with value and texture. The painting, above, is what I came up with.

You can also re-work a failed watercolor painting this way. It is very time consuming, so be prepared for that. I am going to be on the lookout for interesting textures in rice papers to experiment furthur with this technique.

This was a painting I did last Saturday during that spell of nice warm weather we have had.  These two cottonwoods stand on the southeast  shore of the pond. They stood out starkly against the backdrop of the woods.  They each had a few large yellow leaves clinging to the ends of their branches.  The leaves actually flickered as the breeze tossled them every once in awhile.  No hawk today. Caught a glimpse of him as I drove up. He flew from a tree into the woods. I soon found out why. The entire time I sat and painted I could hear gunshots going off from several types of guns. Must have been target practicing. I can’t imagine the amount of ammo they went through. Sounds like that are enough to quiet a woods.

This is a close up version of a scene I painted in July, here. This one was completed in one sitting while the other was one I started on site and finished at home.  The wind was whipping and the sun was shining brightly. Light flickered off one area of the pond that seemed to catch the wind. The foreground tree would change from silvery to light green everytime the wind chose to gust and toss the  branches.  Not only did the leaves flicker on the trees on the far shore but it filtered down through gaps and lit the trunks that were of a lighter color. All I could assume was the loss of leaves on some of the trees created larger gaps in the foliage and allowed for the light to filter through the canopy. The hawk was there once again. This time he circled and dipped very near me several times. No. It was not in a menacing way.  He came so close, twice, that I witnessed the slight change to tail feathers that helped him to maneuver and turn. I had never seen that before.



 finished painting

This is another plein air painting where I have been enjoying the out of doors while weather permits. I sat on the east side of the pond, “looking west”,  this day. There was a prediction of rain and the clouds were just beginning to move in giving this landscape a still and hugged feeling.  There was light and it played itself in and around the middle ground trees. Near where I was sitting on the east side of the pond, the frogs were talking and jumping around in the shallows. A deer ran through the upper left quadrant of this scene and hawks circled overhead for awhile. I hope the painting reflects a pleasant openess and the peacefulness of the afternoon.

 the start

Today I selected a spot right next to the shoreline of the pond and decided to try to render and paint the cat tails and aome interesting trees that looked like lime-green cotton candy.  I drew a simple line drawing and masked out the cat tails and the dead wood that I saw.  I next rendered the dainty trees I wanted to feature as well as the tufts of foreground trees to either side of these.

 2nd steps

I then ran a wash of the foreground pond reflections, painted the background trees wet-in-wet, dropping in salt as I went. Before I darkened the underside of the trees I masked some abstract marks in over the green washes where I painted in the deep darks. I painted in the light wash between the woods and foreground and placed the shadow I saw to the left. These were quick light washes.

 3rd steps

I then concentrated on the bank and defined the reflections in the water. I had to mask the foliage reflections in the water. I realised I had used analagous colors of yellow, blue and green, predominantly. I chose a red (burnt sienna) to help define the far bank and enhance the darks.  I chose this color because it went with what I was seeing on the bank and was a compliment to the greens. I then washed back over the reflections in the water. I then removed the masking and salt.  All of the above work was done plein air or on-site. This took me about four hours.

 final painting

To finish the painting, I handpainted, with a fine brush, the details of the cat tails, deadwood and tree trunks. I scratched out limbs on the dead wood with a pointed scratch tool. I darkened some of the trees in the background as well as fed some darks in and around the base of the cat tails and along the bank. I washed in some light washes of greens and burnt sienna and yellow over the foliage in the background darks.

To just add to the last post a little, about “Little Trees”?  The little tree on the far left has not made it thru the heat spell. I am so glad I took time to paint the scene before this happened.  It never ceases to amaze me how many things I have painted that are no longer in existence.  I drew an image of an old ramshackle house and barn one day, in the country.  The owner allowed my friend and I to sit on her driveway and we were thankful for the opportunity. It is no longer there.  I treasure some of these images and will always wonder if my desire to record those six little trees in a row, first, was a whim. I really don’t think so.

I revisited my friends’ property to attempt a plein air painting since we finally have a couple mid 80 degree days, here. I sat under some huge pines to view and paint this scene.  The painting, above, was what I ended up with in four hours of seeing and recording. I’m SLOW, Stephen, 🙂 .  The dark strip in the lower middle is their pond. I can see I’m going to have to come up with some kind of painter’s lie in rendering this pond. It is gorgeous, however, and I’d like to capture the essence of it eventually. It is dark and mysterious and reflects glints of things surrounding it. It looks like glass, most of the time, and like you could fall forever into it. There was a light breeze and I could hear a hawk and the whispers of the pines I was sitting under.

 final painting

I jotted down notes as to how I wanted to finish the painting . The light streak on the other side of the pond is a walkway around it. The owners took me for a ride in their golf cart around the pond so I could see from all sides of the property.  What a wonderful   view of Indiana. 

Oh. I have taken photographs. It never ceases to amaze me that what I see, while painting outdoors, is so DIFFERENT than what I see in the photograph. Those of you who paint plein air know this to be true. The curve of a shore line, the color of the trees, the shape of a reflection. I am not saying one is better than the other. In fact, I think it only strengthens the view that a photographer has to be a phenomenal artist, also.  I visit Kate, “Y” , Kirsty, and Laurie on a regular basis. I like to see what they see. Oh! …and Carol just introduced me to Jimmyboi2 whose recent trip up the east coast is full of photos of architecture.

I just ran across a beautiful poem about a pond at Adam’s poetry blog here.

There is always something special about painting outdoors.  A year and a half ago I participated in a wet painting silent auction. I painted two landscapes that day.The other is posted here. My paintings, done outdoors, always look different than the ones I paint from reference photos. I think we tend to pare down the non-essentials when we have a time limit. I  feel the brightness of the light or absence of it and the experience of the moment is found in plein air painting.  Many artists turn their backs on plein air work or work from life because they feel their work is less when they do so. Don’t do that to yourself, is my advice. There is something to be gained from both approaches. I have found that my work from reference photos helps my plein air work and vice versa. I strive to maintain a balance between the two. It is going to be getting warmer and I hope to take advantage of painting plein air again this summer.


This week in watercolor plus class we worked with wax resist. We actually used regular crayons for our paintings. One thing I have to concentrate on is getting enough crayon or wax on the paper to resist the color.  Crayon color with the same value of watercolor used, doesn’t create much of an effect. What I like about this technique is the textured look  it gives the painting. It also helps me to be a little more loose than I would normally be with the same scene. I also used a technique called sgrafitto (  simply means “to scratch” ). I lost the wax resist in the foreground grasses so used a scratching tool and a razor blade and scratched them back into the paper. If your intent is to scratch back to the white of the paper, beware not to paint over the scratch marks as the pigment will settle into the grooves and make the scratches darker. We also talked about using ink for some of the tiny branches in a scene like this. I used ink for the little branches on the red tree at the left.


another wax resist

I should add that I always spray wax resist and watercolor with a light layer of matte fixative for storage purposes due to the wax. I haven’t had any problems with this.


I painted outdoors last Friday evening for the first time this season. It felt great. My subject was my friend’s pond. I learned something new. As it became dusk, redwing blackbirds began to descend and cling to the cat tails around the edges of the pond. The darker it became, the more birds nested until there were hundreds of them chattering away. It was quite a sight!

Yousei has posted a haiku of a blackbird soaring against blue sky here.